Hands on workshops let ornamental growers practice IPM that is preached

Some hands-on workshops in June 2014 gave nursery growers a “feel” for practicing IPM.

Traditionally IPM education for the nursery industry has consisted of research talks at winter trade shows with little to no interaction between the speakers and growers. Extension agents have presented IPM trainings through webinars, making learning more convenient to growers, but growers still don’t get an opportunity to practice the tactics as they are being taught. With a zero pest tolerance level, many growers often choose to treat their crop before knowing whether a pest or disease is present, and continue treating on a schedule. They are hesitant to take a chance on a new method that might not have the same result.

So after asking growers about their current pest management practices, NCSU Extension specialist Anthony LeBude and the rest of the Southern Nursery IPM (SNIPM) Working Group developed a hands-on IPM workshop with growers in mind. Working group members presented three two-day workshops in nursery-rich areas in Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina in June 2014, containing activities that growers could do on site.

Calculating soil substrates

Anthony LeBude (3rd from right) shows workshop participants how to calculate soil substrates

Having the workshop in June made the content much more timely for growers than the traditional Winter talks. Because of the hands-on nature, the group limited the workshops to 35 participants each. Lectures and activities included identification, calculation of soil properties, irrigation assessments and scouting walks. Topics for lectures included insect pests, diseases, weeds and the use of new technology, untypical for a traditional workshop. Although growers tend to avoid attending trainings during the growing season, all three workshops quickly filled up.

Based on surveys taken after the workshop, over 80 percent of participants indicated that they intended to scout for pests, diseases and weeds; rotate pesticides, fungicides and herbicides; and revise their current management plants to include techniques learned at the workshops. Follow up surveys indicated that 60 percent of growers who responded incorporated the recommended disease management practices in their operation. More than 80 percent set time aside for scouting, 90 percent incorporated sanitation practices into their daily routines, and 70 percent revised their irrigation practices. Respondents also indicated that more than 80 percent of them had trained their employees about the concepts they had learned.

Workshop participants learn how to identify weeds.

Workshop participants learn how to identify weeds.

Growers estimated the combined economic value of knowledge, skills and abilities learned at the workshops at a value of about $5,000. Based on 15 respondents, that equals approximately $50,000 of impact excluding the cost of the workshop.

The Southern IPM Center Enhancement Grant is made possible by the USDA NIFA Crop Protection and Pest Management Regional Coordination program under agreement 2014-70006-22485.

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